“Break a leg” is the traditional, if superstitious, pre-curtain benediction for actors. It is not meant to be taken literally. Sadly, one of the stars of Arena Stage’s Legacy of Light, Carla Harting, suffered compound fractures in her left femur and tibia after getting hit by a car while biking near the Jefferson Memorial over the weekend. Coincidentally, just ten days earlier, many DC cyclists met at the Jefferson Memorial to embark on the annual Ride of Silence to commemorate those injured or killed while riding bicycles.
An actress imported from New York, Harting had been playing Dr. Olivia Hasting Brown, an astrophysicist with ovarian cancer who searches for a surrogate mother to bear her a child. Harting will be unable to perform the final two weeks of this World Premiere run, which is scheduled to close on June 14. I was surprised to learn there were no understudies trained for the part. This meant both matinee and evening shows on Sunday had to be cancelled.
While Harting was undergoing surgery Sunday at George Washington Hospital, Director Molly Smith was scrambling to find a replacement. Fortunately, a talented veteran of the DC stage, Jennifer Mendenhall, was just closing the Solas Nua production of Woman and Scarecrow on Sunday. No sooner did one engagement close before Mendenhall was immediately thrust into rehearsals all day Monday and today. She is scheduled to jump into the roll tonight. We wish Harting a quick recovery, and for Mendenhall we bid you, “Good …”